Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Territorial Aggression, Socialization, Biting

by Katie
(Olathe, KS, USA)

My Aussie is a red-tri who turned 1 in February. I have 2 major problems with him. I have asked vets and various trainers and gotten conflicting advice. Would really like to hear from an experienced Aussie owner or expert.

1. I have a hyperactive 5 year old son. Sometimes, when my son is making weird noises, play kicking the air, etc, Ranger flies across the room and knocks him down or nips his face. I think Ranger is trying to treat my son as a puppy needing discipline, but this needs to stop. Today he bit him on the face—not a skin break, more like a hard pinch.

2. We exposed Ranger to all types of people as a puppy. He has not generalized this exposure. He is perfectly happy when someone he met as a puppy comes to the house. Anyone else—he acts like a vicious dog—growling and barking like crazy. When I walk him, he barks and growls at all strangers. When he gets out of the house (if son above leaves front door open), he acts like he will attack anyone who is out in the neighborhood. I've been using a Gentle Leader on walks and am getting this under control. When company comes, we keep him on a leash the whole time.

Interestingly, he is different at the dog park. He happily and gently plays with the other dogs and ignores the people. Since he is so pretty, lots of people pet him and he doesn't react, just runs off in search of a playmate. They always say, "He is the sweetest dog!" Little do they know he acts like Cujo when someone comes to visit!

Please help us. I am committed to this dog, but need this behavior to get under control!

Comments for Territorial Aggression, Socialization, Biting

Click here to add your own comments

aggression issues
by: Michele

I have a red merge female that acts the same way with strangers. I noticed she was kind of funny with strangers at about 6 months. I socialized the heck out of her and took her to numerous obedience classes. My suggestion is see a behaviors that can help u someone that specializes in aggression. Make sure they are positive. U definitely don't need someone using negative reinforcement for an already bad situation. I don't have a behaviors close to me so I have been trying to keep her out of situations where a bite could occur.

by: Gayle-- Big Run Aussies

It would be good for your son and the dog to have your son train the puppy, then the pup will know that the boy is over him in pack order. You could start by having your son feed him. Make the dog sit and then your son can give the dog his food either in the bowl or by hand. Actually, your son could hold the bowl in his lap and hand feed the dog. Tricks are another fun way for the dog and boy to learn who controls the food. There are plenty of books about trick training, but my favorite right now is "101 Dog Tricks" by Kyra Sundance.
Loads of fun for a busy boy and dog. And you are right: the dog is trying to correct your son.
Aussies are known for protecting their home and their flock who lives with them. That is one reason why we love them. They would do anything to keep us safe. My girls are protective at home, each one in her own degree. Bryn loves everyone who walks in the door. Sera is standoffish at first and Molly will nip to try to herd them out the door. Mind you, these are all therapy dogs who visit elderly people in nursing homes and are loved by all for their sweet temperaments. It would benefit your dog and visitors to keep him on leash for a greeting and have yummy treats [REAL meat or cheese] for visitors to give him at the door. He will soon know that visitors are good.
Hang in there. The age between 1-2 years is difficult and can be compared to teenage years. Most dogs that are in shelters are in that age group and you can see from 1st hand experience why that is. Taking your dog to a training class would also be beneficial for the whole family. Find a trainer who would permit your son to accompany you and do some of the training with your help, of course. Good luck. Feel free to contact me privately at

Aggression,Socialization, Biting
by: Anne

Aussies need a job to do
His job.. Protector and disciplinarian at your house.
Redirect his job as playing frisbee, obedience or herding. Have you ever taken him to an obedience Class?
He needs more exercise and activity. He is not aggressive per say because he is just fine at the dog park. At the dog park, he is keeping his mind and body active. BUT at home he has a job to do.
I had an aussie just like that. He was not "aggressive" just "protective and he did all the things you talked about but never bit anyone except a girl at my house that was unruly and she scared it was a reaction for him.
Your son may be Hyper but he also needs to learn self-control and so does the dog.
You hit the nail on the head, when you said he was treating your son like a puppy.

Take control and discipline your dog in a firm calm manner. He needs to be corrected for it

Hope that helps

Anne Calmes
Gold Ring Aussies
Louisiana, USA

by: Kalyne

Great advice and support! I like the idea of my son helping with training.
We are on our 3rd session of obedience training. He is not as good as I expected because he is so dang excited. He really wants to play with the other dogs. The trainer seems worried that he is dog-aggressive but I think he is just immature and very very excited. (I have trained and shown in obedience, but always shelties. They had the opposite problem!)
Dog park and frequent walks are great for Ranger. It's been in the hundreds here, though, so we have cut way back on outside activity...

Mine is the same way
by: Anonymous

I have an Australian Shepherd tricolor. Male 5 years old. And he is a perfectly behaved dog outside of my home. I can take him to Petsmart where people can pet him, I can take him to the groomer and they say he's perfect, but in the home he is a vicious attack dog if anybody comes in the house. So he's kenneled and least. And just last week he broke off the leash and did in fact bite. So now I have to release him to A Humane Society with a no-kill policy. I'm absolutely heartbroken and devastated.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Australian Shepherd Q & A.

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & CareGuide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care
Questions About Training Your Australian Shepherd? Stop problem behaviors and transform your Australian Shepherd into a model Aussie.

Read More icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Ask a Dog Veterinarian Now

We have partnered with JustAnswer
so that you can get an answer ASAP.